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2021 Hyundai i20 N prototype breaks cover in Sweden

John Law
2021 Hyundai i20 N - 1

Much to the delight of hot-hatch die-hards, Hyundai has unwrapped an all-new i20 N prototype under the Swedish snow. Details are sparse, but we know the Koreans have developed this car with existing N-knowhow and some very talented engineers.

For the last decade or so the sole surviving rally homologation special was the Subaru WRX – standing for World Rally Experimental. But the WRC-car-for-the-road genre signalled to return with Toyota’s development of the bespoke GR Yaris and this new i20 N.

The i30 N has been around since 2017, but the i20 N is likely to address criticisms of its bigger brother. A shorter wheelbase and less weight should make for a lithe, agile and playful competitor to Ford’s excellent Fiesta ST.

2021 Hyundai i20 N - 4
You can’t see any of the N bits yet.

Hyundai’s RM19 concept also appears in the video sliding about; it certainly seems that soon the Koreans will become a force to be reckoned with for driving enjoyment.

There are a couple of snags for Aussie prospects of this new car, though. Hyundai Australia has yet to bring the updated i20 Downunder yet, relying solely on the Venue compact SUV as it’s light car.

This doesn’t bode well for Australian enthusiasts who are chomping at the bit for more hot Hyundais. However, you don’t have to look far to Ford and Renault who have had success in securing hot versions for our market.

2021 Hyundai i20 N - 3
But those big alloys look to be hiding some stopping power

Unfortunately, for now, the reworked grille and rear valence are kept under wraps. It also appears that, unlike the GR Yaris, Hyundai is sticking to a five-door shell for the road car.

What’s clear is a large set of diamond-finish alloy wheels hiding some meaty red brake callipers. We’ll undoubtedly see more of the flesh in the coming months.

Inside the i20 N is a departure from the regular car, too, with a purposeful looking set of tombstone bucket seats.

2021 Hyundai i20 N - 2
It’s important to test in extreme conditions, but we reckon it looks pretty fun.

The included winter testing video tells us a few more things, first that WRC gun driver Thierry Neuville rather likes sliding about, the second is that we can expect a raucous, pop-heavy engine note from the coming i20 N.

When Neuville is asked about the new car, he replies “The noise is really interesting”, it’s hard to tell what kind of engine is making the noise, but the comment suggests it could be a bespoke motor for the new car. 

Neuville comments further that “Electronic systems are helping to keep the driver in control at all times”. Given ties to the WRC car, Hyundai may have implemented an all-wheel-drive system for the i20 N, but it’s not something we know yet.

2021 Hyundai i20 N - 1
But will it be all-wheel-drive?

Drivetrain details will be crucial to understanding where the i20 N will fit in the marketplace. If it’s front-wheel-drive, then Ford is going to have some new competition for the Fiesta ST. And given the success of the i30 N, it’ll probably be stiff competition at that.

Perhaps, though, the i20 N will aim squarely at its established off-road foe, the GR Yaris. That will all be confirmed in time, and we can’t wait to hear more.